The Hawaiian Martial Arts

Go Broncos!

The Boise State Broncos play the Hawaii Warriors today, which brings me to the subject of the Hawaiian martial arts.

As a kid I read in National Geographic magazine about the wars of ancient Hawaii, which were extremely brutal. The Hawaiians didn’t have metal, so they made “swords” and cutting weapons by embedding sharks’ teeth into wooden weapons, usually clubs.

Hawaiian War Club with Shark's Teeth Edge

The following appears at

One of the most interesting early arms of Hawaii is the shark toothed club. Although this name is some what a misnomer, due to the fact that the shark toothed weapons were used for slashing weapons. A round weapon may have 30 or more shark teeth around the edges, other varieties featured as few as 3 in a claw shape. Shark tooth also a proffered weapon of ancient Hawaiian nobles. Many weapons were hooked to grab limbs.

Short spears and stone clubs made up the bulk of Hawaiian close melee weapons. Short spears were not larger at the base like the longer pikes. Stone clubs were in fact stone maces, similar to European designs.

Hawaiian weapons also included wooden tripping weapons, or pikoi, which had long cords attached to variously shaped club-like heads with or without handles. The weighted part of the rope was thrown at an opponent’s legs to trip him, and then another weapon, perhaps a stone hand club shaped like today’s hand-held weights with bulbous ends and a slimmer connecting section to grasp, would be used to finish off the tripped enemy. 

Ancient Hawaiian Weapons

Daggers were unique to Hawaii amongst the polynesian islands. Five kinds of daggers were written about by early explorers. They were the heavy truncheon dagger with a hole in the handle for a loop made of olona fiber to be attached, long-bladed daggers, shark-tooth or marlin bladed daggers , bludgeon daggers and curved bladed daggers. Captain James Cook wrote about them himself: “They have a sort of weapon which we had never seen before, and not mentioned by any navigator, as used by the natives of the South Sea. It was somewhat like a dagger; in general, about a foot and a half long, sharpened at one or both ends, and secured to the hand by a string. Its use is to stab in close fight; and it seems well adapted to the purpose. Some of these may be called double daggers, having a handle in the middle with which they are better enabled to strike both ways.”

The ancient Hawaiian martial art is Lua. See the video here.


5 Responses to “The Hawaiian Martial Arts”

  1. jimmyfatwing Says:

    Some nice looking weapons in the Hawaiian arts, be nice on the wall and effective. Not overly “covert” or “incidental” but good martial weapons.

    You got me looking at the NZ stuff more as well now.

  2. jimmyfatwing Says:

    There was a good episode on the Warriors tv series as well on the Hawaiian warriors, the series with the retires marine.

  3. Marine?!? Man Terry is gonna kill you for saying that that! lol.

    His name is Terry Schappert and he is Green Beret; the episode was called Maya Armageddon where he used a similar club but with obsidian instead of shark teeth. He cut the back of his calf while swinging it and had to have stitches while the camera was still rolling. It was a deep razor like cut, not jagged.

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